The Leone Stars have secured a 1-1 draw away against Swaziland in their opening qualifying game of AFCON 2015.
Despite a difficult week where delays in travel to Swaziland meant very limited preparations for the Leone Stars, they performed well playing at moderate altitude (700m), with Sulaiman Sesay (pictured) scoring the opening goal in the first few minutes of the game.
As a result, Swaziland took a while to find their pace but were fortunate to equalise in the second half after a long range shot was deflected, high into the air, off a Leone defender. The Leone Stars sought to close out the game in the final 10 minutes but the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Coach McKinstry commented:
"We have come away with an away-draw in some very difficult circumstances. Away games in Africa are always tough. We are missing some key players through injury and illness and it is disappointing that our training plans were further interrupted due to the team being substantially delayed in Nigeria."
Officials at Lagos airport had not permitted the team to board their onward flight on Thursday evening without transit visas for South Africa. This was despite assurances earlier that day from the South African Embassy in Nigeria that transit visas were not required for the short layover in Johannesburg airport before an onward flight to Swaziland. Indeed, those players who travelled direct to South Africa were not asked for visas before their transit through to Swaziland.
"A number of factors put in place since I took over a year ago have however helped us today. My focus on sourcing the best talent for the national team has meant that we awarded 4 new caps in the match. Those players and others have made a real impact on the game today and will continue to do so in the future. My back-room staff, including assistant coaches and physiotherapist, have also played a key role yesterday and this morning in making sure that the team, including those who were delayed, were prepared for the game today."
The four new caps were awarded to: Ibrahim 'Soja' Kamara (FC Johansen, Sierra Leone); Yeami Dunia (FC Johansen, Sierra Leone) and substitutes Ibrahim Kallay (IFK Lulea, Sweden) and Ishmael 'Jaw Jaw' Koroma (Old Edwardians, Sierra Leone).
On the game and their Swaziland opponents, Coach McKinstry said:
"The Swaziland team have made the most of their 2 weeks in camp and have prepared well and put on a good performance in front of their home crowd. We now know a lot more about them and their weaknesses and look forward to the return leg in Sierra Leone in a few weeks time when we intend to close out a victory".
For more news and pictures of Leone Stars games and training camps - visit www.johnnymckinstry.com/leonestars
You can click any of the pictures below to see a full screen version of the picture. You can then also choose to click the play arrow to watch a slide show of all images.
Notes to Editors
- The game is the first game (away leg) in the second round qualifier against Swaziland on 18 May 2014 as part of AFCON 2015
- You can read more about the AFCON 2015 tournament and the Leone Stars fixtures.
- Johnny McKinstry was appointed Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team on 11th April 2013. You can read more about his time in charge of the Leone Stars
- See www.johnnymckinstry.com for a range of information - biography, press releases and photographs for press use.